Armenia : Hike the Geghama Mountains

10 Days
World First Trip!
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Fixed Departure : July 11th – July 21st 2019

See Itinerary below for details

Do you want to be part of the first ever group to traverse Armenia’s volcanic Geghama Mountains?

Fancy a dose of proper wilderness walking in the borderlands of Europe and Asia – whilst also donating to a good cause?

This exhilarating trek along a newly-mapped section of the Trans-Caucasian Trail will take you across Armenia’s fantastically beautiful, yet little-visited Geghama Range, an imposing chain of extinct volcanoes that bisects the country from north to south. The most remote, uninhabited part of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, this is a wild region of rolling steppe, snow-streaked peaks, nomad camps and wheeling eagles.

You’ll walk across flower-strewn ridges, stand on the craters of old volcanoes, swim in ice-cold mountain lakes, drink toasts around the fire with Yezidi nomads, sleep in an ancient Caravanserai, camp under epic starlit skies, visit ancient monasteries and feast on delicious Armenian food and wine.

Only four people have made this full traverse of the Geghama Range – among them the Trans-Caucasian Trail founder Tom Allen, writer and adventurer Leon McCarron, and our guide, Val Ismaili. Val is also the first person to have walked the entire 1000-mile length of the Trans-Caucasian Trail across Georgia and Armenia.

This will be the first ever group crossing of the range, and we’re pretty darn excited about it.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Zvartnots International Airport, Yerevan
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Yerevan
INCLUDED
  • Airport transfers in Armenia
  • All food and accommodation.
  • Drinking water.
  • Expert Guide Val Ismaili, plus a superb, English-speaking local guide who intimately knows the route and the people who live along it.
  • A Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
  • Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments, emergency procedures, satellite communications (where necessary) and medical support. We don’t take risks lightly and we plan for all eventualities, believing it is better to have prepared and not require a procedure than not to plan at all.
NOT INCLUDED
  • International Flights to/from Yerevan.
  • Your Armenian visa if required (USA, UK/EU citizens do not require a tourist visa. Other nationalities may. See Visa Information for details.).
  • Extras such as souvenirs and alcohol.
  • Your personal travel insurance

In the words of Tom Allen, co-founder of the Trans-Caucasian Trail. “The sheer expansiveness of this region conjures memories of the Patagonian and Mongolian steppes: it’s incredible that this tiny nation in the South Caucasus, just a quick hop away from Europe, can serve up such wildernesses.”

We are running this trip in collaboration with our good friends at the Trans-Caucasian Trail, and a healthy slice of the profits will be going to the Trail – helping them continue their valuable work in building this pioneering long-distance walking route.

The wonderful images shown are gratefully credited to Tom Allen and Leon McCarron

Hike Armenia’s Geghama Mountain Range
Minimum number for guaranteed departure 5 persons. Maximum group size 10 persons

1

Day 1: Thursday 11th July

Arrive Zvartnots International Airport, Armenia
Arrival at Zvartnots International Airport, Yerevan, Armenia. Flights from the UK generally arrive late at night or early in the morning, but which flight you take is up to you. We will collect you from the airport and transfer you to our charming city centre hotel. For those who arrive in time, we’ll be having a welcome dinner at one of the capital’s best restaurants.

2

Day 2: Friday 12 July

Yerevan to Lake Sevan, 0km walking

After breakfast we’ll visit the newly established Hike Armenia centre in Yerevan, where we’ll meet some of the team behind the Trans-Caucasian Trail and hear more about the walk ahead. After this we’ll hit the road, driving one-hour east to the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery, a beautiful medieval building that’s partially carved out of the mountainside. After lunch at a café near the monastery, it’s a two-hour drive to Lake Sevan, where we’ll spend the night at a characterful little hotel by the lakeside. For those of you partial to a bit of wild swimming, this is your first chance to dip your toes (and more!) into Armenian waters. Tonight’s hotel is 2000 m above sea level.

3

Day 3: Saturday July 13

15 km walk | 600 metre ascent | Camp altitude 3100 m
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we’ll shoulder our packs and head into the mountains to start the walk, covering the first stretch in an old Soviet military all-road Gaz-66 truck. A few (bumpy!) hours later we’ll reach the start of our trek at the north end of the Geghama Range. It’s 2500 m altitude here, and ahead of us stretches the vast expanse of the mountains, with fantastic view across the volcanic domes we’ll cross over the oncoming days. From here it’s a fairly easy walk – with a picnic lunch on the way – through alpine meadows and rolling steppe to our campsite beside the clear waters of Lake Akna. It’s a camp supper under the stars tonight, and a swim in the lake for anyone who’s game.

4

Day 4: Sunday 14 July

17 km walk | 670 metre ascent | Camp altitude 3100 m
After a camp breakfast we set off for a gorgeous walk through the rolling, stream riven mountains, including a scramble to the summit of Mount Azdahak (3597m) – the poster boy of the Range. With its massive lake-filled crater, old lava flows and steep slopes of pink volcanic pumice, it cuts quite a figure, and the view from up here is spectacular. The only sign of human life we will see from up here is the odd shepherd’s camp. On the way down we’ll see some petroglyphs, some of the 12,000 found in these mountains. Tonight’s camp site will be in a well-sheltered volcanic crater containing Badi Lich, or Duck Lake.

5

Day 5: Monday 15 July

20 km walk | 530 m ascent | Camp altitude 2850 m
After a camp breakfast we’ll hike out of the crater and head to the western flanks of Mount Spitasakar, meaning ‘Great White Mountain’, a formidable pile of sheer cliffs that drops away to the plains below. Following an old shepherds trail that weaves along the top of a ridge, we’ll be crossing streams and doffing our caps at shepherds as they graze their flocks. Tonight we’ll camp with a family of Yezidi nomads, and no doubt end up chewing the fat and clinking glasses around the fire, the stars twinkling overhead. Meeting these wonderfully hospitable people is an experience you will never forget.

6

Day 6: Tuesday 16 July

24 km walk | 400 metre ascent | Camp altitude 2300 m
After a camp breakfast we set off for our longest day yet, a 24 km yomp along a ridgeline, with fantastic views into the gorges of the Khosrov Forest State Reserve. One of the oldest protected reserves in the world, this was founded in the 4th century by Khosrov Kotak, the then King of Armenia. Our picnic lunch will be beside the ruins of an old Soviet-era military base that once overlooked the USSR’s borders with Iran and Turkey. From here, if it’s clear, we’ll be able to see Turkey’s Mount Ararat rising into the azure skies. Descending into the grasslands of the Argichi floodplain, we’ll spend tonight at a homestay and enjoy some delicious, and well-deserved, homemade food and wine.

7

Day 7: Wednesday 17 July

15 km walk | 350 metre ascent | Camp altitude 2350 m
After a delicious breakfast at the homestay we head off again, although today’s walk is much easier. Walking on little-used jeep tracks through an undulating landscape, we end the day at an atmospheric 700-year-old caravanserai, built during the time of the Mongol empire as an important stop on the Silk Road between Jolfa and Tbilisi. We’ll camp inside the caravanserai tonight, imagining the sighs of the camels that once passed through its vast doors laden with spices and silk.

8

Day 8: Thursday 18 July

16 km walk | 385 metre ascent | Camp altitude 2000 m
It’s a beautiful walk through rolling mountains and steppe today, across streams and flower-strewn meadows. We’re descending out of the Geghama Range here, and after a picnic lunch, we’ll continue on to our guesthouse, a lovely little place in the mountains which we’ll have all to ourselves. We’ll have a BBQ around the fire tonight, another epic starlit sky sparking overhead.

9

Day 9: Friday 19 July

13.5 km walk | 530 metre ascent | Camp altitude 1500 m
It’s our last day of walking today, down out of the mountains to Aghavnadzor via a couple of pretty lakes. The scenery is different here; the rolling green expanses of the mountains giving way to a more rugged, rocky landscape. We’ll end the day in a very lovely boutique hotel and winery, and celebrate the end of our walk with feasting and drinking.

10

Day 10: Saturday 20 July

Return to Yerevan
We’ll have a relaxing morning at the hotel, with a tour of the winery for those who want it, and a visit to the nearby 13th century Noravank monastery, famous for its setting in a stunning red rock gorge. After lunch at the hotel we’ll then drive the two hours back to Yerevan, where we’ll check-in to the same charming city centre hotel and hit the tiles for a leaving dinner.

11

Day 11: Sunday 21 July

Yerevan – Home
Sadly it’s time to go home, so we’ll transfer you to the airport and wave you on your merry way.
Tour Start Date End Date Price
Hike Armenia's Geghama Mountains 2019 11/07/2019 21/07/2019 £1,690.00 Taking Bookings

Where will we be staying? On this expedition you’ll be staying at a variety of different places, ranging from a very nice hotel in Yerevan’s centre to homestays in the mountains. You’ll also spend four nights camping, including one night with Yezidi nomads and one night in a 700-year old Silk Road caravanserai.

Will we have to share rooms? Yes, sometimes. A number of the guesthouses we’re staying at are small and family-run and there simply isn’t enough space for everyone to have their own room – but this is all part of the adventure! Where possible though, you will have your own room. And of course, you’ll also have your own tent – unless you choose to share with a friend or partner.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. More than 70% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?

We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised for extra accommodation charges so no, there is no single supplement on this trip.

What’s included in the price?

All your food and accommodation, some alcohol with meals, two guides, a support vehicle, airport transfers. The only things not included are your flights, personal travel insurance and spending money for personal things like souvenirs.

What kit do I need to bring?

Once you’ve signed up to this trip we will provide you with a detailed information pack. This will detail all and any particular equipment you’ll need to pack.

Will I have to carry my own camping gear?

Yes, you will have to carry all your own camping equipment for the first three days of the trek where the terrain does not allow for a support vehicle. From Day 5 onwards, when we camp with the Yezidi’s, we will be met each evening by our support vehicle, so you’ll just need to carry your day pack with water, packed lunch and anything else essential you need for the day. We will explain this in more detail in your Welcome Pack.

Will I have to put up my own tent?

Yes you will!

How much are the flights? Return flights to Yerevan from London are typically around £400. These flights all include stopovers in Moscow or Istanbul of varying lengths. The recommended outgoing flight from London leaves late at night on July 10th, meaning you arrive in time for lunch on the 11th and have plenty of time to rest before the adventure begins. Again, we will advise you more on this after you have signed up.

How fit do I need to be? This is an expedition-level adventure and you need to be a fit, fairly experienced hiker. You’ll be embarking on self-supported trekking days in remote mountains, at elevation, whilst carrying camping equipment and food. You will be led by Val Ismaili, a qualified Mountain Leader, and at times have vehicle support, but this trip is physically challenging and requires you to have some trekking and backpacking experience. Pop us an email if you have any concerns before booking.

What will the food be like? Delicious. We’ll have the chance to eat authentic Armenian cuisine at some of the best restaurants in the country as well as traditional homemade food at guesthouses, a homestay and Yezidi camps. There tends to be a very heavy consumption of meat and dairy, so let us know if you have specific dietary requirements and we’ll plan accordingly. Our self-supported campfire nights will be fuelled by dehydrated Firepot  camp meals.

Do we need our own camping equipment? Yes. You’ll need to bring along suitable camping gear for the terrain we’ll be trekking through. In short, this means a sleeping mat, a warm sleeping bag and a tent in addition to your typical trekking gear. We’ll provide the stoves and gas though. On booking the trip, you’ll receive an extensive packing list detailing exactly what you’ll need.

What will the weather be like? We’ll be trekking through the most prominent mountain range in the country. Electrical storms are common in the evenings, but are contrasted by normally clear, and warm (around 20 degrees) days and clear, colder nights.

Is it a guaranteed departure? We need a minimum of five people to make this a guaranteed departure, but we hope this won’t be too difficult!

Who’s leading the trip? The trip will be led by Val Ismaili as well as a local English-speaking guide (who is also the vice President of the Transcaucasian Trail in Armenia). Val first travelled to the Caucasus in the summer of 2017, and spent two months trekking alone through the remote mountains of Armenia and Georgia to complete the first thru-hike of the 1000-mile Transcaucasian Trail. Since then, Val has spent six months scouting, designing and building new hiking trails across the Armenian Highlands, meaning he’s uniquely well positioned to take us deep into both the Geghama mountains and Armenian culture. Val is a qualified Mountain Leader, remote First Aid trained and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. You you can hear him give a personal account of his expedition through the Caucasus at the link below.

https://www.rgs.org/geography/online-lectures/seeking-solitude,-finding-solidarity-on-foot-thro/

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?

Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

Is this for me?

Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend ten days of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.

Walking across rough terrain can be dangerous in your own back yard, so being fit enough to walk an average of twelve miles per day across mountains is a prerequisite of this trip.

Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking.

This is a beautiful, enchanting and ancient place to travel through but in many of the areas we will pass through, tourism is unheard of.  This of course, is what draws us – and hopefully you – to travel there in this experiential way. Remember, we are the very first people to run a group tour here.

There’ll be very little Wi-Fi or mobile reception for most of the hike. Shared rooms, camping, local hospitality and simple amenities will be the norm, so if your idea of heaven is starting each day with a full English breakfast and having a swimming pool and a private suite, then we’d suggest this isn’t for you!

Enquire

From£1,690.00